Brisbane is the third largest city in Australia, after Sydney and Melbourne, but with about 1.5 million people it's not big by city standards. For us though it was great because we aren't used to big cities anymore and the idea of negotiating somewhere the size of London is quite daunting. Brisbane has the shopping malls, parks, pubs and entertainment but it is small enough so that within a couple of weeks we had found our way around and felt we knew where everything was.
Of course the first thing we did was to seek out a stand-up comedy venue. This being our longest time without stand-up comedy since we met at ULU's Thursday night comedy - remember that? The best venue we found was the Sit Down Comedy Club, a bit like Jongleurs, which had some really good comedians but some of it went straight over our heads - same jokes as you hear anywhere - about relationships, polititians etc but the names were all different.
We had nearly three weeks in Brisbane before Mum arrived so we thought we should try and earn a few pennies - and thats about what they pay over here: ouch!. Not having worked for nine months or so I was surprised that going back to work was actually quite an appealing prospect. First we set up a bank account so that if we did get any work we could be paid - setting up the bank account was very easy, although we had to shop around a bit as they have quite high charges here for current accounts: you can end up being charged for every transaction you make on a sliding scale of, supposedly, how much it costs the bank, so a small(ish) fee for an internet transaction, upto a couple of dollars for taking some of your own money out over the counter, and somewhere in the middle for using your debit card in a shop or one of the banks own ATM's. We'd also applied for a tax number so we'd only be taxed at 30% rather than 50% which is the emergency tax rate. The 30% tax rate is still a special high rate for non-Australian workers - no personal allowance etc. and they also take 9% for a "superannuation fund" - pension plan basically, although we have heard rumours that it is possible to claim this back when we leave.
Temping agencies - I tried to talk to a few temping agencies but was surprised by how much hostility I encountered. When I spoke to the agencies on the telephone they sounded encouraging as I told them about my skills and experience but after I mentioned the working visa (which restricts me to only working for three months for each company) their attitude would change and they all gave me one or both of these responses. We don't have any contracts shorter than three months (what about covering illness and holiday I asked which received mubbled replies about ok I could email my CV to them and they would have a look but there was really very little work at the moment) or Brisbane companies like people with 'local' knowledge and wouldn't like to have someone who didn't know about Brisbane working there!!! Basically they didn't want to bother employing travellers who might only work for a few days and then run off. So I emailed my CV to a few agencies and the only one that replied, Kelly Services, asked me in for an interview the following morning.
The interview - When I arrived at the agency I found that there were seven other people waiting to be interviewed and they were all wearing suits or at least jackets so I felt a bit scruffy in my cardie. It turned out that we were having a group interview session where we all sat around a table and completed a written test - it was like being back at school. The interview lasted four hours and was the most rigorous I've ever had with computer and typing tests and a regular interview aswell as the written test which covered grammer, spelling and arithmetic - readers of this website might wonder how I passed the grammer and spelling tests. Still, I obviously did because they found me some work for the next working day. I'd asked for Government work because the Queensland State Government is based in Brisbane and most of the temporary work in Brisbane is either in Government Departments or with Telstra (phone company) so I thought it would be interesting to find out a bit about the Queensland Government. In the two weeks before Mum arrived I worked at the Department of Employment and Training and the Department of Transport. Neither job was thrilling so I was glad that they were very short term assignments.
Richard didn't think he'd have much luck looking for short term work before Mum arrived (a likely story - I think he's just lazy (Duh! It's taken eight years to work that out! - R)) so he spent a lot of time being bored or trying to catch up on computer stuff but that was hampered by the fact that the phone in our apartment was linked to a digital switchboard which stopped the computer from getting online. Luckily the friendly managers there let us use a spare office during office hours but it was inconvenient. We've usually been lucky with internet access in motel rooms as phones have been suitable and in most places there is a flat rate for a local call so we can spend hours on the internet and only pay between 55-85 cents in call charges. Richard adds: What Jo forgets to mention was that the first day she went out hawing her CV around, I'd written up my CV (first time since '94 I'd needed a real one of those!), and then on checking my e-mail found a offer from freeloader of some work if I was interested. It turned into a fairly lengthy job repackaging a lot of games over a very slow internet connection. So less of the lazy digs please and get back to work Madam....
I couldn't believe it when Mum arrived, I was so happy to see her but I had to rush off to work so I left her to catch up with Richard during the day and when I got back in the evening we went for a lovely dinner and talked non stop for the rest of the night. The next day Mum and Richard met me for lunch in the town centre and then they went to the Botanic Gardens while I spent Friday afternoon working - plus ša change! After work we went to the lovely South Bank Parklands which is on the river and was buzzing with people enjoying their Friday drinks and dinner ourside the many cafes and pubs and browsing the market stalls. It really was a wonderful place to kick back and relax.
We'd planned to have a little holiday with Mum spending a few weeks going down to Sydney and also visiting the Blue Moutains, Hunter Valley wine area and the Gold Coast. But just before leaving Brisbane we managed to meet up with some relatives.
A bit of family history: My Great Uncle Doug (my Mum's Uncle) and his wife, Margaret, emigrated to Australia many years ago. They had two sons (David and Paul) and there are now five grandchildren (all boys). Doug and David are no longer with us but the rest of the family all live on the East Coast between Brisbane and Sydney and we were lucky enough to meet up with all of them during Mum's stay - I had never met them before and Mum hadn't seen Margaret for about forty years. Great Auntie Margaret lives in Tweed Heads and David's widow, Bronwyn and two of their sons, Mark and Tim live in Newcastle and the middle one, Andrew, lives in Sydney.
Paul and his wife, Vanessa, have two young sons, Hugh and Seth and they live in Brisbane. Mum had met Paul and Vanessa before but Richard and I had never met any of my Aussie relatives so it was nice to meet up with them. As you can see Hugh wasn't letting go of the teddy that Mum gave him an hour before this photo was taken, he really took a shine to it.
The next day we left Brisbane for our holiday with mum.